Hvar Island and its Cultural Heritage on the UNESCO Lists

Published in Highlights

The exhibition of Croatia's cultural heritage as recognized on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List highlights the fact that Hvar is extremely rich in prized assets and traditions. 

The Jelsa Cross in Pitve Church, 2014. The Jelsa Cross in Pitve Church, 2014. Photo Vivian Grisogono

The exhibition Croatian intangible  cultural heritage on the UNESCO lists is a compilation of the exceptionally interesting examples of Croatia's living heritage which enrich our social and cultural life in modern times. The presentation of this exhibition in Jelsa and Stari Grad is an opportunity for Hvar's islanders to recognize the value of what they have, within the varied context of Croatia's national heritage as a whole. With its arrival on Hvar Island, this 'travelling' exhibition is paying a visit to an old friend, and it places people and their community at its centre as the most important exponents of the intangible heritage. The significance of Hvar's role in this exhibition is best witnessed by the fact that this island is associated with four cultural assets which are firmly established on the Representative list of mankind's intangible cultural heritage, and which are on show here. The Za Križen Procession and the agava lace made by Hvar's Benedictine nuns were the first Hvar representatives to be added to the List, in 2009. Klapa singing as an expression of the cultural identity of Dalmatia as a whole, and therefore including Hvar Island, followed in 2012. Then the next year, in 2013, the Mediterranean Diet was incorporated in the List, a multinational cultural heritage subject whose key proponents were the islands of Hvar and Brač. Thus the Island of Hvar and its inhabitants have been recognized on the worldwide map of culture as representatives of an exceptionally rich cultural tradition whose significance transcends national boundaries.

Here it is essential to mention the Stari Grad Plain, even though it does not fall within the scope of this exhibition, as it is a material cultural heritage asset. The Stari Grad Plain was inscribed on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List as a cultural landscape in 2008. Its universal value is reflected in the preserved geometrical division of the land according to the Greek system of parcelization, which was set out in the 4th century BCE, and above all in the continuity of its cultivation as a source of food for the population throughout 24 centuries. These particularities are all the more marked because in the main it is the same agricultural crops which are being cultivated, olives and grapes being the most important. This demonstrates to us how the material cultural heritage is interlinked with the intangible cultural heritage, because the fruits of the Plain are a vital part of the Mediterranean diet.

Being part of the Mediterranean as expressed through food is recognized throughout the Adriatic coast, on its islands and on part of the hinterland. It was not by chance that Hvar was not selected to represent the Mediterranean Diet. The biggest fertile plain on all the Dalmatian islands and a sea rich with fish have made its inhabitants self-sufficient for food. Thousands of years of exposure to historical changes and to diverse cultural influences through sea-travel and trading have made Hvar's cuisine one of the most attractive on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. It has managed to preserve its original form 'within the kitchen walls' to the present day, through its modest tradition of agriculture and fishing preserving the 'poor man's' cooking, alongside the characteristics of the rich cooking whose influence was brought in from the east and west sides of the Mediterranean. Besides this, the customs of obtaining, distributing and eating food communally, combined with the family gatherings around the table for sacral feast days, turn food consumption into a social affair, and this is what makes the Mediterranean so special and recognizable.

Island socializing has its richest expression in its traditional music. Thanks to the dedicated work of researchers from the 19th century to the present time, we now have a substantial archive of the musical heritage of the islands. Thus numerous folk tales and songs relating to their life and customs throughout the year have been saved from oblivion. Nowadays there are many male and female a capella groups (known as klape in Croatian), which are more or less formally organized, and which nurture the tradition of the old songs, which are mainly on the subject of love. These singing groups are especially active during the summer months on local squares during island celebrations. A tradition has also been established for island singing groups to be invited to perform abroad, and in this way they promote Dalmatia's musical identity.

The particular symbols which are special to Hvar are the Procession known as Za križen, and the agava lace made by Hvar's Benedictine nuns. Hvar islanders are very religious, and it is their religious identity which to a great extent dictates the dynamics of community life on an everyday basis as on feast days. The Easter period, with the Za križen Procession as its central religious expression is at the heart of the year's feast days. The Procession represents Christ's sufferings and is the people's deep-felt expression of devotion to traditional values.

There are exceptional examples of Croatia's lace-making traditions in Lepoglava, on the Island of Pag, and in Hvar Town. Behind the walls of Hvar's Benedictine Convent, unique items of agava lace are created. The agava plant is the queen of the island's stony landscape, and teasing out fine thread from its fleshy leaves is a laborious task. Creating this protected lace from the agava thread is a very delicate skill in itself, practised only by these Benedictine nuns. Lace – not of agava – was the usual decoration in island homes, as well as being used for wedding finery, dresses and bedlinen. Lace-making is a tradition which women have preserved, with particular emphasis on the lace which was made to decorate a bride's dowry.

That such a small island can boast five UNESCO protected subjects undoubtedly emphasizes the thousands of years of continous rich cultural history that Hvar has enjoyed. Recent globalization processes and eonomic changes are altering the traditional style of living. However, some values, deeply ingrained in the mentality of the people, are still an important part of the island's life today. These values are a long-lasting link between the past and the future for the islanders as active actors in living within and preserving their heritage.

 

This exhibition has been placed in two locations in order to emphasize that heritage does not belong to one owner, but to all of us, to the individual and to mankind. Hvar's contribution to the exhibition is precisely in the values which the island's intangible heritage propounds, and which have become recognizable symbols of the island's cultural identity. In them one can recognize the influences, most of all from the Mediterranean, which have landed on the Hvar shores and reshaped in the long-term the life of the island's microcosm, in which the 'imported' elements have gained their own significance.

One such historical link is coming to the fore right now, in 2016. We are coming up to a significant anniversary of the founding of the Greek polis of Faros, today's Stari Grad, 2,400 years ago. This is an opportunity for us to call to mind two important elements in the tradition which frames our everyday lives – on one hand there is a continuity expressed in preserving our cultural heritage, and on the other hand there is constant change which is mirrored in the adaptation of traditions to the needs of the new times in which we live, so that we can pass them on to the generations to come.

© Marija Plenković 2016

Translated by Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon)

Media

You are here: Home highlights Hvar Island and its Cultural Heritage on the UNESCO Lists

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Wenlock Edge, Shropshire:A sunbeam bends into a rainbow over the trees, fields and lanes, against the dark-light of cloud

    Sunlight startles trees and lets small birds furtle through the ash crowns shining green-gold. The last beam breaks against a lowering sky to reveal the coming rain that would otherwise slip in through the gloaming.

    In this moment, the sunbeam bends into a rainbow over the trees, fields and lanes, against the dark-light of cloud. The arc passes high overhead through the remains of the day but its feet plunge down into the dark-half, the under-hill, where shadows are superimposed on shadows, where there is an undecipherable plan.

    Continue reading...

  • Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change calls for green recovery from pandemic

    The devastation caused by Covid-19 presents an opportunity for countries to rebuild their economies in a way that is environmentally responsible, researchers say.

    “The only way you can meet the Paris agreement is by taking advantage of this moment … by combining the recovery from Covid-19 with the response to climate change,” said Dr Nick Watts, the chief sustainability officer for the NHS.

    Continue reading...

  • Environment secretary hails ‘Brexit success’ for animal welfare, but poultry to be excluded and Northern Ireland exempted


    Plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening are to be unveiled by the UK’s environment secretary, George Eustice, on Thursday.

    The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the plans were part of a renewed push to strengthen Britain’s position as a world leader on animal welfare.

    Continue reading...

  • António Guterres lists human-inflicted wounds on natural world in stark message

    Humanity is facing a new war, unprecedented in history, the secretary general of the UN has warned, which is in danger of destroying our future before we have fully understood the risk.

    The stark message from António Guterres follows a year of global upheaval, with the coronavirus pandemic causing governments to shut down whole countries for months at a time, while wildfires, hurricanes and powerful storms have scarred the globe.

    Continue reading...

  • Production must fall by 6% a year to avoid ‘severe climate disruption’ but Covid-19 funding is supporting increases

    The world’s governments are “doubling down” on fossil fuels despite the urgent need for cuts in carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis, a report by the UN and partners has found.

    The researchers say production of coal, oil and gas must fall by 6% a year until 2030 to keep global heating under the 1.5C target agreed in the Paris accord and avoid “severe climate disruption”. But nations are planning production increases of 2% a year and G20 countries are giving 50% more coronavirus recovery funding to fossil fuels than to clean energy.

    Continue reading...

  • The outlook for Australian sites including the Blue Mountains and the Gondwana rainforests has deteriorated, report says

    The outlook for five Australian world heritage sites including the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Mountains and the Gondwana rainforests, has deteriorated, according to a global report that finds climate change is now the number one threat to the planet’s natural world heritage.

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the official advisory body on nature to the Unesco world heritage committee, has found in its world heritage outlook that climate change threatens a third of the world’s natural heritage sites. The outlook has been published every three years since 2014.

    Continue reading...

  • Singapore’s approval of chicken cells grown in bioreactors is seen as landmark moment across industry

    Cultured meat, produced in bioreactors without the slaughter of an animal, has been approved for sale by a regulatory authority for the first time. The development has been hailed as a landmark moment across the meat industry.

    The “chicken bites”, produced by the US company Eat Just, have passed a safety review by the Singapore Food Agency and the approval could open the door to a future when all meat is produced without the killing of livestock, the company said.

    Continue reading...

  • Communities are being asked to bid to host the plant, which a state-backed project plans to build by 2040

    Communities in the UK are being asked to bid to host a prototype nuclear fusion power plant, which a government-backed programme plans to build by 2040.

    The site does not need to be near existing nuclear power stations but will need 100 hectares of land and a plentiful water supply. Ministers say the project would bring thousands of skilled jobs and be part of its planned “green industrial revolution” to tackle the climate crisis.

    Continue reading...

  • Highways England scheme to encourage species-rich grasslands could create hundreds of miles of rare habitats after decades of loss

    Native wildflower meadows will line the verges of all new large-scale road projects under an initiative by Highways England, the Guardian can reveal.

    Nodding blue harebells, clusters of yellow kidney vetch and flashes of bird’s-foot-trefoil could soon become the norm on stretches of the road network in England with the infrastructure provider committing to the creation of biodiverse grasslands as standard on all new major schemes.

    Continue reading...

  • Boris Johnson’s advisers did not understand how vital UN Cop26 talks were, former minister tells MPs

    Boris Johnson’s team had a “cavalier attitude” to hosting a vital UN climate summit in the UK, taking the view “they could wing it with a few press releases and that would all be fine” rather than putting serious work into the talks, the sacked former minister originally in charge has said.

    Claire O’Neill was appointed by Johnson to head the Cop26 summit in September 2019 but was summarily dismissed on the eve of the launch of the UK’s presidency in February this year.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

Feed not found.